Sunday, January 09, 2011

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

Quick: name, in your experience, the single best poem, pre-1900, to teach close reading to new English majors. Bonus points if it involves sex.

11 comments:

reassignedtime said...

"To His Coy Mistress" without doubt. But if you have a doubt, "The Flea."

Both of these fulfill your desire for sex and good close readings :)

Fretful Porpentine said...

Well, my first pick would be "Ode on a Grecian Urn," but if sex is a necessity, there's always Sonnet 20.

Horace said...

Good calls, Dr. C. I had "The Flea" on my shortlist, but had somehow forgotten the Marvell. And FP, the Keats was also on my shortlist (and in fact, all of these may get used, in the end). Keep 'em coming, people!

teridr said...

I use the section of Paradise Lost Bk 2 where Milton describes the relationship between Satan, Sin, and Death. It has lots of good sex in it, plus Milton! What could be better for close reading?

Tom said...

I use Thomas Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt"--although the Norton muddies things up a bit by historicizing its reference to Anne Boleyn. I work them through the sentences, and then try to get them to see that a reader must conclude the poem is about a woman, and not about a deer, and that to read it as about a deer is to misread the essential metaphor--that is, the metaphor is not an optional component of the reading. But Sonnet 20 (Shakespeare's) is also a good suggestion.

moria said...

Donne's 'Batter my heart,' fo sho – but I also second the endorsement of Shax20.

Jason said...

"Porphyria's Lover" is the obvious choice.

Bardiac said...

"The Flea" and "To His Coy Mistress" would be my number one and two. And Herrick's "The Vine" for wit and good humor.

Horace said...

Good choices all. Interestingly: No Americans, no women. Remedies, anyone?

undine said...

D'oh! I wanted to be the first to say "To His Coy Mistress," but Dr. Crazy beat me to it. Barring that, a sonnet. Barring THAT, and if it doesn't have to have a lot of sex in it, something by Emily Dickinson.

Renaissance Girl said...

How about the 2 different versions of Dickinson 216 ("Safe in their Alabaster Chambers")? No sex, but it's short, and the revision forces close focus.

But I'd also have said Shax20 or "The Flea," or "What if this present were the world's last night."